Neuberger, Griggs, Sweet & Froehle, LLP

What is a revocable living trust?

Estate planning worksheet for writing a willA revocable living trust in an estate planning document used to list the assets and express wishes for distribution. An experienced lawyer can draft a revocable living trust with specific instructions provided by the guarantor. Unlike an irrevocable living trust, a revocable living trust can be revoked at any time by the guarantor.

In a revocable living trust, certain assets are placed into a living trust. There are three parties named for management and distribution of the assets: a guarantor, trustee, and beneficiary (or beneficiaries). A guarantor is the owner of the assets. A trustee, either corporate or individual, is named to manage the assets. Beneficiaries are parties named to receive assets. Typically, while the owner of the assets is alive and competent, the guarantor is designated trustee. If the owner would become incapacitated, such as from a serious illness, a living trust contains specific directions for the trustee to manage the assets.

When the guarantor passes away, the living trust contains directions for the trustee to distribute assets to beneficiaries. In Wisconsin, a living trust incurs the same estate taxes as a will. If only certain assets are placed into a living trust, a guarantor may need to draft a will in addition to a living trust. Instructions for guardianship of minors should also be included in a will; detailed wishes for support of those minors can be included in the revocable living trust document. Unlike a will, a living trust does not need to go through the court-supervised probate process and is a private document. The biggest benefit of a revocable living trust, when compared to a will, is that all assets named in the trust do not have to go through probate, which can take longer for distribution and incur more costs.

A revocable living trust can be modified or revoked after drafting. Contact a lawyer for information on how to modify the living trust, and what is needed for the change. Typically, changes cannot be made when the estate owner passes away.

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